Saturday, May 21, 2011

More on Pelagic

Tony's previous post does a good job summing up our day at sea, and includes some excellent photographs. Here's a little play-by-play of the trip, along with a cumulative list.

At 11pm, we left the dock in Wildwood Crest. The ride out was a bit choppy, and we encountered several brief and light rain showers. At 4:00am we arrived at our "destination" on the edge of Wilmington Canyon, about 80 miles offshore. The mate started chumming in order to develop a slick behind the boat, with the hope of attracting birds.

The first Wilson's Storm-Petrel flashed by not long after, visible in the light generated by the boat. More and more appeared as dawn approached. By the time we had full light, there were several dozen Wilson's viewable around the boat. The day's first shearwater, a Sooty, zipped by in the distance, but was soon followed by an extremely close bird that came in to feed with the storm-petrels.

A Great Shearwater made an all-too-brief appearance a few minutes later, followed by a Cory's Shearwater a few minutes after that. Our storm-petrel flock had increased to close to 100 birds, but with a lack of anything else interesting, we decided to move on.

At about 8:00am, Glen Davis picked out the day's first Leach's Storm-Petrel flying ahead of the boat. This soon turned into two birds, and were the first of an impressive 16 individuals seen for the day. Unfortunately, aside from a constant show of storm-petrels, the occasional Sooty Shearwater, and an impressive acrobatic show from a pod of Offshore Bottlenose Dolphins, we couldn't find much else the rest of the morning (rough, I know).

By mid-day, we had to turn back toward shore to try to get back by the intended return time of 5pm. However, this ended up being much easier said than done. The birding doldrums ended when Paul Guris came across a large, dark tern flying a few hundred yards out. Consensus was reached that the bird was a Bridled Tern, potentially constituting a first spring record in NJ waters. Almost immediately after, phalaropes were found on the water amidst a patch of sargassum weed. Both Red and Red-necked Phalaropes made up a mixed flock of almost two dozen birds. Also at about this time, a Chimney Swift flew over the boat!

Multiple observers converged on at least one Arctic Tern, and there were likely a few others, but many of the terns we saw were outside of ID range. The seas started to lay down during the afternoon, helping us find several Sooty Shearwaters on the water, along with a large mixed flock of almost 60 phalaropes. One of the day's most exciting moments came about 50 miles from shore, when a South Polar Skua came charging in from behind the boat. Mike Fritz tossed it a fish, which it gladly stopped to chow down on, and which also caused us to quickly turn the boat around to get a good look!

As we got closer to shore, Tony picked out a high-flying Black Tern overhead and a few more Sooty Shearwaters appeared. We ended the day with a Purple Sandpiper on the south-most Coast Guard jetty, along with several flocks of Whimbrel in the back bay marshes near the dock.

It was a remarkable day to be out on a boat- one that would be very difficult to match, and equally difficult to forget.

Location: Cape May County offshore waters (all)
Observation date: 5/20/11
Notes: Pelagic trip; part of NJAS Cape Maygration festival. Other notable sightings: 20 Portugese Man O'War; 20 "Offshore" Bottlenose Dolphins; 12 Common Dolphins; 1 Minke Whale.
Number of species: 20

Common Loon 3
Cory's Shearwater 1 seen early in AM, about 80 miles offshore. Perhaps a bit early.
Great Shearwater 3
Sooty Shearwater 27
Wilson's Storm-Petrel 419
Leach's Storm-Petrel 16 First found around 7:30am at canyon edge. Some by themselves, others in "pairs" or mixed in with feeding flocks of Wilson's Storm-Petrels.
Northern Gannet 7
Double-crested Cormorant 1 Very bizarre; single bird about 70 miles offshore, flying toward the SE!
Red-necked Phalarope 17 Most on water, 50-70 miles offshore in several small flocks
Red Phalarope 66 Found both times in mixed flocks with RNPH, and in same general "zone" offshore. One flock contained 49 individuals.
Laughing Gull 3
Herring Gull 1
Great Black-backed Gull 3
Bridled Tern 1 **Very rare** - Possibly a first ever spring record for NJ. First-summer bird, with pale forehead and pale belly, overall dark-gray tones to upperside and wings.
Black Tern 1
Arctic Tern 1 possibly more.
Common Tern 28
Sterna sp. 27
South Polar Skua 1 Barreled in behind boat and landed in slick. A fish was thrown to it, and we were able to circle back and have lengthy, close looks. Not an adult; not sure how to age.
Chimney Swift 1 about 75 miles offshore
Barn Swallow 1

This report was generated automatically by eBird v2(

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